Cuts to Further Education must be reversed

James Corry
James Corry

#STUC16 The STUC will campaign for the new Scottish Government to provide colleges with sufficient funding to return to meeting the full range of educational needs in their local communities.

It will also call for the protection of, or improvement in, the terms and conditions of college staff.

UNISON’s James Corry, backing the Fife TUC motion, asked Congress to celebrate the recent lecturers’ victory.

“Wasn’t that a magnificent result by EIS-FELA in its national industrial action?” he asked delegates as he went on to outline the negotiating success of support staff in a ‘historic’ deal bringing the first national bargaining for 20 years.

He said: “My FE colleagues in UNISON, who lead the new national negotiations for support staff, are working hard, along with Unite and the GMB, to achieve a flat rate increase for 2016 in line with the lecturers.

“Congress, we broke government pay policy – winning for more than 4,000 support staff a rise of between 1 and 2%, highest for those on lower pay. And a commitment that all colleges will achieve Living Wage accreditation by the end of the year.

“We have achieved a standard working week of 35 hours, improvements to annual leave and Living Wage plus cost of living rises for all directly employed staff.

“This was hard won Congress. And, as you know, colleges have taken a massive hit in the last few years.”

Following the mergers, Scotland now has 20 FE colleges compared to 37 in 2011. UNISON’s report on the extreme pressure members are under shows why support staff morale is so low. Real-terms funding fell by £53 million between 2011 and 2014, and staff numbers went down by 9.3% since 2011-12.

“It is a scandal that there are now 80,000 fewer women in further education than a few years ago. The motion rightly highlights the lifeline that FE is and should be for people of all ages and abilities – if it is properly funded”, said James.

“Congress, this sector urgently needs a shot in the arm. We need the General Council to make the strongest possible case to the new Scottish Government for a fairer funding deal to ensure colleges can meet the full range of education needs in their local communities. “There must be funds specifically to secure the protection and improvement of terms and conditions for college staff.

“And if we are told there isn’t enough money, what about the Arms Length Foundations created by colleges before they were reclassified back into the public sector? The EIS survey found £99 million was transferred in 2013/4 to these ‘secret’ accounts run by trustees.

“This is public money and should be subject to the same rules. It should be used to invest in restructuring the pay and grading model and standardising the terms and conditions across the sector.

“There is much work still to be done to achieve a unitary system of pay and conditions across all colleges and UNISON is up for leading this campaign with the other lecturing and support trade unions.”

STUC Reports Home